A Lizard Tail Goddess

First of all, I’d like to extend a big thank you to Julie Picarello for all of her inspiration in creating this necklace. And her inspiration continues with the arrival of her eagerly anticipated book in my mailbox this week. More about that later…

A little over a year ago, I was excited and honored to attend a weekend workshop with Julie, one of my polymer clay/color heroes. The first word that comes to my mind whenever I look at her work is…..yummy. Her use of color, design and texture all flow together in such an amazingly vibrant way. As part of her workshop, we made these nifty little polyclay pieces that Julie calls “lizard tails”. As much as I love Julie’s work, I didn’t want to duplicate her jewelry pieces but put my own artistic voice into my piece. So, being true to my style, my “lizard tail” became the body of a bead embroidered Goddess.

Many moons ago before I started creating jewelry and beadwork, I loved to embroider. I remember my Hungarian grandmother teaching me how to carefully lay stitches down on a tablecloth when I was very young even before I started going to school.  I continued embroidering on into my teen years, creating colorful designs on t-shirts, denim shirts and pairs of denim jeans so ripped up that I transformed them into purses. Ah, happy memories! I loved taking an everyday object and embellish it with colorful stitches. Years later when I discovered that I could sew with my beloved beads, well, oh my, I was in heaven.

This beautifully serene, bone face cabochon was purchased years ago at a bead show in Providence and has sat patiently in my studio stash waiting to be included in its own unique piece of jewelry. I beaded the face and body separately on Lacy’s Stiff Stuff and then sewed them together before adding a final beaded edge to the whole pendant. I thought about adding some fringe or a bead drop but decided finally to just keep this piece as simple as possible with no embellishment.

The choker is beaded in my favorite beading weave, herringbone stitch, with tiny size 15 beads. In seed beads as with wire gauge, the larger the number, the smaller the bead (or wire). I then beaded small gold caps to finish the choker ends and added a gold-filled filigree box clasp. Despite its long pendant, this necklace is so lightweight and such a pleasure to wear. It is backed with soft Ultrasuede.

I thought it wonderfully synchronistic that I finished this piece the same week that I received my copy of Julie’s new book, “Patterns in Polymer: Imprint and Accent Bead Techniques“. If you’ve never had the opportunity to take a workshop with Julie, this is the next best thing and is filled with eye candy inspiration and instruction on creating your own unique mokume gane pieces.

Next up on my beading table is another component made in Julie’s workshop, my “lazy river” pendant. Stay tuned, dear friends…

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Saturday Morning Tea

The skies may be gray outside my window but I am inside enjoying sunshine in my teacup – a first flush Darjeeling from the Tumsong estate.

I have read that the Tumsong tea garden was first planted in 1867 around a temple devoted to the Hindu goddess Tamsa Devi. Devi is the Sanskrit word for goddess.

When I opened the tea packet, an aroma of fresh flowers and sugar cookies greeted my senses.

I steeped the bright olive tea leaves for 3 minutes in boiling point (212F) water.

From the Tumsong tea estate:

“Tumsong’s teas are known to be among the best in the Darjeeling area and command high prices at auctions. Perhaps the first credit for this should go to the goddess, on whose land the garden grows. The goddess Tamsa presides over this serene and surreal landscape and fills the atmosphere with harmony. In the area, Tumsong is often referred to as the garden of happy hearts.”

The leaves may be intensely green but the liquor they produce is a golden yellow, creating pearl bubbles of light in my glass teapot.

I have also read that the entire tea garden faces some of the highest ranges in the Himalayan mountains and receives a constant, cool breeze sweeping across the tea bushes. This breeze causes the plants to grow gradually, allowing them to slowly develop their flavor.

And this tea is positively bursting with flavor! Notes of nut (almond), tropical fruit and citrus pungency sweep across my palate as I slowly savor each sip from my teacup.

All I can say is – yum, and let me go make another pot right now!

I’m headed out to my garden this afternoon to do some more planting – 2 peonies with flowers of raspberry sorbet, tipped in yellow, a lavender for my herb garden, some olive/eggplant-colored coleus for a shady spot under a tree, and some cheerful daisies for the morning sun side of the house.

Have a wonderful weekend, dear friends!

“How to be happy when you are miserable. Plant Japanese poppies with cornflowers and mignonette, and bed out the petunias among the sweet-peas so they shall scent each other.  See the sweet-peas coming up.

Drink very good tea out of a thin Worcester cup of a colour between apricot and pink…”   ~ Rumer Godden

Unless otherwise noted, all text and photos are the property of Karen Park Art and Tea, copyright 2007-2011. Please do not “lift” any of my photographs or blog posts for use on your blog or website. Thank you so much for your respect and kind attention.

Saturday Morning Tea

This morning’s tea, a special grade of the legendary Tieguanyin Oolong, was grown in southern Fujian province in China. This type of Oolong tea is named after the Chinese Goddess of Mercy, Guan Yin or Kuan Yin, believed to be the female incarnation of the compassionate Buddha. This tea is aptly called Buddha’s Palm, a lovely name for a beautiful tea.

Tieguanyin Oolong undergoes an amazing 18-step processing which includes withering, sun-drying several times, bruising, rattling and tumbling of the leaf, rolling the leaf in cloth for shaping and, the most important, the final drying in either baskets over charcoal or special tea-firing ovens. The temperature of these ovens is most critical as it is that temperature which will either strengthen or ruin the flavor of the tea. The tea master will carefully control the amount and intensity of the heat during this final step.

Steeped Tieguanyin Oolong leaf is recognizable for its russet-brown color and the crimson edging on the leaf. There are special Tieguanyin cultivars (subspecies of the camellia sinensis tea plant) grown in the mountains near Anxi, the best known being Red Heart Kuan Yin.

Look at that gorgeous glowing amber color. It’s very different from the last 2 Oolongs and their pale golden color. The darker color indicates that the leaves have been oxidized longer.

An aroma of woods, leaves and chestnuts drifts from my teapot as I gently lift the infuser basket.

The deep, woodsy flavor has toasty notes of chestnut and raisin. Mmmmm, it calls to mind the rich, deep flavors of fall ahead.

“Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without.” ~Buddha


Saturday Morning Tea

Here in New England, this is the kind of day we wait for all winter long – brilliant sun, azure skies, no clouds and temps forecasted near 50. A glorious day for walking!

This morning I am delving back into the herbal world to share an interesting tisane that I’ve been enjoying as my evening cuppa lately.

Ocimum tenioflorum, commonly called Holy Basil and known in India as Tulsi,  meaning “the incomparable one” in Sanskrit.

There are 2 types of Holy Basil, one with light green leaves and one with dark. I have prepared the darker variety, also called purple leaf probably because the leaves have a purplish tinge to them.

Many Hindu families have Tulsi growing in pots outside the entrance to their home. The Tulsi plant is venerated as a goddess and every year a ritual is performed marrying her to the god Vishnu. This ceremonial marriage is called Tulsi Vivah and it signifies the end of the monsoon season and the beginning of the Hindu wedding season.

Tulsi has been used for thousands of years in Ayurvedic remedies. Studies have shown its benefits in quite a few conditions ranging from regulating blood glucose to pain relief to reducing cholesterol levels. I’ve also read that its great for easing stress.

I steeped the leaves for 8 minutes in boiled water. The amber liquor has a distinctive clove, anise/licorice aroma which carries over into its taste.

Sweet and spicy pepper notes mingle with a hint of cinnamon and fruit. I bet this would be lovely iced.

I’m looking forward to a warmer time when iced drinks will be regularly enjoyed.

The fresh air is beckoning….enjoy your weekend!

“When we emerge into the bright landscapes of the sun everything looked brighter, and we felt our faith in Nature’s beauty strengthened, and saw more clearly that beauty is universal and immortal, above, beneath, on land, in heat and cold, light and darkness.” ~John Muir

Saturday Morning Tea

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My daughter gave me a lovely bouquet of tulips for Mother’s Day. This morning I was cutting the stems down and rearranging them in a vase when a petal fell onto the kitchen counter. It cradles this morning’s tea, a Tie-Guan-Yin Oolong called Special Tribute.

There is a legend regarding how this particular Oolong came into being. Many years ago in Fujian Province in China, a poor tea farmer named Mr. Wei would walk by a temple everyday on his way to the tea fields. As each day passed, he noticed that no one cared for the temple so it was becoming quite run down. Inside he found a statue of Guan Yin, the bodhisattva of compassion. He did not have the means to fix up the temple but he felt that something needed to be done. One day he brought his broom and some incense. He lit the incense as an offering to the Goddess and swept the temple clean. That night Guan Yin came to him in a dream and told him of a cave where he would find a beautiful treasure for himself and to share with others. The treasure turned out to be a tea shoot which Mr. Wei planted and nurtured into a large tea bush, producing the finest tea in the region. He shared cuttings with all his neighbors and started calling the tea produced from this bush Tie-Guan-Yin. Mr. Wei and all his neighbors prospered and were able to restore the temple to its beauty and many came to gather there. Now Mr. Wei felt joy everyday as he passed the temple on the way to his tea fields.

Isn’t that just a lovely story?

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I steeped the rolled leaf for 3 minutes in 180 degree F water. It relaxed a little after steeping but, for the most part, still kept its curly appearance.

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The pale yellow liquor is smooth and slightly sweet with nutty, woodsy notes and a hint of floral in the finish.

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I enjoyed my cuppa with the last of the blackberry crumble I made the other evening. Crumble is so easy to make and you can substitute your favorite fruit. Mix 1/2 cup each of rolled oats, brown sugar, and flour with a teaspoon of cinnamon. Then cut in 1/4 cup of butter until it’s crumbly. Place your choice of fruit (about 2-4 cups, soaked in sugar beforehand, if you wish) in a baking dish and sprinkle the crumble over it. Bake at 350 until browned. In my oven, it took about 25 minutes. Mmmmm….

“Develop interest in life as you see it; in people, things, literature, music – the world is so rich, simply throbbing with rich treasures, beautiful souls and interesting people.  Forget yourself.”

~Henry Miller

Saturday Morning Tea

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In continuing with my fervent wishes for spring to arrive, I am sipping a very fragrant Floral Tie-Guan-Yin Oolong this morning. Inhaling the aroma of this tea brings memories of that first moment in late spring when you are standing by an open window and the breeze brings in the heady scent of lilac to fill your senses.

Aromatherapy in a cup to dispel the iciness of a long, harsh winter that is still hanging on into February.

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The leaves are intensely green, especially after steeping, and rolled into curled shapes during processing. This tea is lightly oxidized making it more like a green tea, with vegetal notes in the flavor. The lilac fragrance bursts its sweetness in my mouth with each sip.

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This tea is named after Guan Yin (also spelled Quan Yin or Kwan Yin), the Chinese Goddess of Mercy. Well loved by her people, there are many stories about her kindness and compassion. It is said that she was a Buddhist many years ago and, after living a life filled with great love and giving, she had earned her place in Nirvana, or heaven. As she was passing through the gates, she heard a cry of anguish come from the Earth. She decided to turn back to the earth and find her immortality in the hearts of the suffering. Her Chinese name roughly translates to “The One Who Hear the Cries of the World”.

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I steeped the leaves in water under the boiling point (about 190 degrees F) for 3 minutes. The leaves gently released and opened during their time in the hot water. It’s like a tea leaf’s little hot tub. Aaahhhh…..

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The liquor is a very pale straw color, the same color as my new teabowl. I purchased a set of 4 teabowls from In Pursuit of Tea. Handmade in Japan, each tea bowl hold approximately 4 ounces. Very sweet.

A kind word is like a spring day.

~Russian Proverb

Tagged again

I’ve been tagged again for a meme, this time by Arline. So, I’ll try to think of 7 more random things about myself.  Let’s see…

1.  I am a voracious reader, reading about 2-3 books a week. When I moved 5 years ago, I discovered just how many books I actually owned so I gave a lot of them away and vowed to visit my public library more. I add books to my queue online and the library e-mails me when they arrive. I love this relationship!

2.  I love stories about Goddesses. Some of my favorite books when I was a child were about Greek and Roman Gods and Goddesses. Years later as an adult, I delved deeper into Goddess lore and ancient Goddess centered cultures. This led me to express this intense interest in my artwork by creating fabric Goddess doll pins embellished with beaded hair, charms and symbols.

3.  In the summertime during thunderstorm season, I am a doppler radar nut. I love anything weather related, especially lightning, thunder, wind and cloud formations. I think that I was a metereologist or a storm chaser in a former life.

4.  I am a devoted Boston Red Sox and New England Patriots fan.

5.  4 1/2 years ago, I had a frozen left shoulder. My physical therapist said that it was so bad that I would never have full range of motion in that shoulder ever again. I never injured the shoulder so no one could explain why that happened. After 6-8 months of intense physical therapy and reiki treatments and the most painful moments of my life, my shoulder healed completely.

6.  I love sweet and salty things together, like pretzels and M&Ms. I rarely eat them but I love them.

7.  I have lived in 5 states – New Jersey, Ohio, Illinois, Kansas and Massachusetts.

I am supposed to tag 7 more people but instead, I invite anyone who would like to play along to join!